Occam's Razor

Published on Jul 5, 2019

I've been thinking about Occam's razor recently. It's commonly stated as "the simplest explanation is usually the right one". Today I learned that that's actually not a form of Occam's razor but the law of parsimony or simplicity.

It's commonly used when dealing with competing hypotheses for some phenomena. It's used particularly in science but the common references to it ascribe it to almost anything. It got me thinking if a principle that works well for science can also work well for human behaviour.

Scientific problems usually have logical explanations. There might be various hypotheses and most will be proven false, but they will all be rooted in logic extrapolated from existing facts and theories.

Human behaviour, on the other hand, isn't so logical. The actions we take can't be traced back to specific circumstances and factors. Our reactions can vary in the same situations. Our decisions can be illogical and a result of emotion in specific situations.

When then assessing a person's behaviour, is the simplest explanation usually right?

In some cases it is but how often are we shocked by someone's rationale for their actions?

Maybe if we could have the data that scientists get to validate their theories we could truly tell what the "simplest" explanation is. But that's pretty unlikely.